The Baker Archaeological Site (also known as Baker Village) was excavated from 1991 to 1994. This village was assigned to the Fremont Culture that is named for sites along the Fremont River in Utah. “Fremont” sites share similarities in pottery styles and materials, basketry techniques, and distinctive ceremonial artwork.
The Fremont were contemporaries of the more famous Anasazi, the builders of Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon. Remains of the Fremont Culture have been found in Utah, Colorado, and Nevada dating from the 8th century to the mid-14th century.
Archaeologists have known about the Baker Village for many years. Excavation revealed that the residents collected wild plant foods and grew corn, beans, and squash. They built a complex village of adobe structures and pit houses. More than 15 structures were excavated. Trade in obsidian, turquoise, and shell connected them with distant villages. The main period of occupation, the time when most of the structures were built, was from A.D. 1220 to 1295.
The Fremont in this area could have been irrigators. It is thought that a creek from nearby mountains may have run through this area. No evidence of irrigation was found at Baker Village, but it seems likely in view of the fact that corn agriculture is not possible in this area today without irrigation. But was it possible 700 years ago? Even then, evidence suggests that corn grown here would have required additional water channeled from streams. Signs of irrigation canals have been found at Fremont sites in Utah. If the Fremont did irrigate their fields, this would be one significant difference between them and the Anasazi who were mainly dry farmers in parts of the southwest where natural rainfall is sufficient to support corn agriculture without irrigation.
The surprising thing that the excavation discovered was the complexity and apparent planning that the village layout suggests. Previous excavations of other Fremont sites showed a culture of small subsistence villages with a somewhat haphazard, variable structure. Because of this, the Fremont were thought of as less sophisticated than the Anasazi. More recent work, including the excavations here at Baker Village, has shown that the Fremont were probably every bit as complex as their neighbors.
After the excavations were completed, the site was backfilled (reburied with the dirt that was removed during excavation), a necessary step in protecting the cultural features that remain, to preserve them for possible future studies. As a result, the foundations of the village can no longer be seen on the surface. The wall indications you can see at the site are modern walls, built here in 2002. They cap the buried walls and protect them from erosion by wind. They are fragile; please do not walk on them.
The excavations at Baker Village were conducted by Brigham Young University’s Office of Public Archaeology (BYU-OPA), in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management as a summer field school for six weeks each summer from 1991 to 1994. The artifacts recovered during the excavation have been transferred to the Brigham Young University Office of Public Archaeology Museum.
Baker Village Trail Guide, by Marcia E. Phillips.
Baker, Nevada ~ 1 mile.
Access: Turn south from Highway 50 one mile west of the Utah/Nevada border and travel 3 miles to the site marker.